Before children, I was living in Nigeria working as an office administrator. I loved working. I also loved caring for people. If I’m not at work, I’m taking care of somebody or doing some stuff at home. I thought children would fit in well. They give me more things to do with my time.
Actually we didn’t know it was going to be like this [in the US]. The idea that we had at home was its all rosy now overseas. You really need to be there to be someone—so we got a VISA through the VISA lottery. Since everyone’s going there, let’s go. So we came here. Well, it wasn’t too easy adjusting. For the kids, it was fine. But for the adults, it wasn’t so easy.
I came here for my children. We knew we were coming to stay to get them into the right schools. We have a permanent resident VISA so we can stay as long as we want. What we didn’t know was how expensive it was to go back. We thought we could go back after a few months. We have not been back yet.
Going to the hospital in the US is different. I had two kids back home so when I came here I found out I knew nothing about kids. Back home your mother is there. Your parents are there. Someone is there to take care of you, to do everything. When I had my first one, my mother-in-law was there. All she does was bring her [the baby] to me when she wants to breastfeed and then take her back. When I came here, you’re on your own. This is your third child, right? They asked. I said, “yes, but I don’t know anything. You guys just tell me what I need to know.” It taught me to be on my own and do most things.
Back home, the men don’t do anything at home. The wife takes care of everything. All they do is go out, work, get some money for the family. A typical Nigerian man won’t go into the kitchen and get himself anything to eat. He [my husband] knew he had to adjust when he came here. He’s tried.
When I can, I work, too. Before I became a mother, I was all alone and I didn’t care about going back home. Now I have to plan my time around the kids’ schedules and the household schedule. Before it was all me. I could be at work as long as I wanted to, but right now the kids come first.
Here [in the US], you have a lot of privileges and possibilities like daycare and other things mothers benefit from. Here, mothers tend to own the child. In Nigeria, it’s the guys who own the kids, for example if a couple gets divorced.
How has my relationship changed? We care less about ourselves and care more about the kids. Before we could be by ourselves, but now we have some partners between us that we have to put first. Sometimes we try to have a good time, but it’s not like what we used to have when no one was there.
Divide up child-related work? I do most of the work related to the kids except on Mondays. Where I come from, the wives take care of the kids and all domestic things. In Nigeria, you’d have help. Your relations would come and visit you or you could hire help in the house.
The hardest thing? They’re all fun, depending on how you see it. Most important, you have to have patience and be able to tolerate whatever comes out of it.
The best thing? Having your kids around, seeing them grow and emerge and seeing that these are mine. God bless me with them. It really makes me happy.
I didn’t ever think I would be able to take care of kids alone, but I know now yes, I can do it. Before I would always rely on people, but now I know, yes, I can do it myself.
You have to adjust. If it was just me, I wouldn’t have left [Nigeria]. I would have preferred to stay in my homeland. The schools here are better. You can tell the difference between a child brought up in America versus Nigeria. They have a lot of privileges, good education, a lot of toys. Only the privileged ones get the kinds of toys they have here. They can play on the computer. They have a government to speak for them. In Nigeria, they don’t. Nobody cares. The government doesn’t have laws to protect its people. Here, they have laws–like no spanking–to guide us. A child even knows if you break the laws, they can call and someone will come to their rescue.
I doubt they will ever want to move back to Nigeria. But I have to take them one day. They have to know it one day. I have to take them home. But I’m sure they will love it better here.
Advice? Be patient, be careful and plan your time. Try to make some time, although it might be difficult sometimes. Otherwise you will not be happy. I just had a nap. I went to sleep while the little one was asleep. I didn’t go to bed until 1 am and I had to get up by 5 so I was like, young lady, you need to take a nap. Always take some time to take care of yourself so you can take care of those you need to take care of.